Pilot of sunken plane identified, body recovered - NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News, Weather, Sports

Pilot of sunken plane identified, body recovered

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CATSKILL, N.Y. -- The body of the pilot of the sunken plane that crashed into the Hudson Thursday has been found according to State Police.

The small plane crashed into the Hudson River around 4:30 p.m. Thursday near a cement plant near the town of Germantown, located near the lower end of Main Street. Michael B. Braunstien, 72, of Copake, N.Y. has been identified as the pilot. His body was located in a debris field in about 20 feet of water in the Hudson River. An autopsy to determine the cause of death is pending.

Through the use of sonar, State Police troopers were able to identify a potential debris field earlier in the day on Friday.

Dive teams were able to recover several pieces of debris that were floating in the river, including a piece of the tail section. The portion of the tail with the airplane's ID number has not been found.

State Police say they believe it is an amphibian twin-engine World War II-era aircraft that crashed. Witnesses at the scene have told authorities the plane hit the water and was on fire.

"It was coming down at an angle and it went into the water and there was smoke and debris in the air," said 10-year-old William Salvis, who witnessed the crash.

State Police did not put any divers in the water Thursday because of concerns that jet fuel could be in the river. On Friday, concerns about spilled fuel have not hampered recover efforts, as the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation advised that any spillage has since dissipated.

FAA investigators are working to find why the plane went down. Police say Braunstien took off from a private airfield in Copake about a half-hour before the plane went down.

"We have located extensive debris in the area but cannot positively identify or confirm the identity of the aircraft we have located," said Captain Robert Nuzzo of the New York State Police.

The State Police are working with the Greene County Director of Emergency Services and the Greene and Ulster County Sheriff's Offices for this investigation.

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